∞ Apple promises greater transparency and flexibility for App Store developers

A new statement from Apple would seem to indicate a more conciliatory and open approach to its relationship with developers of software for iOS devices. It’s great news in particular for developers who rely on cross-platform software toolkits, which seemingly ran afoul of Apple’s SDK license earlier this year.

“We are continually trying to make the App Store even better. We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart. Based on their input, today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license in sections 3.3.1, 3.3.2 and 3.3.9 to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year,” reads the statement.

“In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code,” said Apple.

Earlier this year Apple raised alarms in the developer community when it changed its iOS developer SDK license agreement to require developers to create apps “originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript.”

On the surface, this appeared to be an attempt by Apple to restrict Adobe Systems from offering Flash to iPhone app conversion services, a feature it promoted as part of its Creative Suite 5 software. Indeed, shortly after Apple made its announcement, Adobe abandoned its iPhone app building technology.

Unfortunately, Apple’s wording also put in potential jeopardy many other software toolkits that have been developed over the past few years to offer iOS development capabilities. Developers became concerned that almost any multiplatform middleware used to help ease their development of iOS apps might run afoul of Apple’s restrictions.

“This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need,” said Apple.

What’s more, Apple said that for the first time since the App Store went online, the company is publishing review guidelines to help developers understand how apps they submit are reviewed by Apple staff.

“We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store,” said Apple.

  • Carlos Lopez

    Question: forgive my ignorance, but is this truly a good thing? Publishing the guidelines is great; that I understand. But to allow anyone to write development tools for iOS apps? What about the concerns Jobs had in his Open Letter about Flash?

    Quote: “We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.”

    Those concerns seems legit to me. Does this mark the end of the iOS SDK? Can’t Apple lose control of its platform?

    Thanks for educating me.


    A Concerned Apple Loyalist

    • I think your concerns are misguided. What Apple is saying in essence is “We don’t really care what tools you use, as long as you don’t make crap.” They’re still reserving the right to reject any app they want to for a variety of qualitative reasons – as illuminated in the review guidelines that developers are now able to read.

      They’re just conceding that it’s a bit too heavy-handed and restrictive to expect developers not to use third-party cross-platform frameworks that make it easier for them to reuse assets.

      Apple’s being a good corporate citizen here, from where I’m sitting – they’re saying “Listen, guys, we know you want to make a living making software for Android and god-knows-what-else, we’re not going to stop you or get in your way. We’re confident we have the resources in place to prevent you from releasing absolute crap on iOS, so knock yourselves out.”

  • Perry Clease

    As more an artist than a programmer can you ‘splain what this means to the end user?

    • In short, nothing. This is all inside baseball for developers.

  • Carlos: I think there’s more than enough ammunition in that list for Apple to continue to reject any misbehaved Flash apps. They just won’t say it was for being built with Flash anymore.

    Which is smart. If someone manages to meet all of Apple’s criteria with a Flash-built app despite the runtime, why shouldn’t it be published? But keep in mind: That’s probably not possible.

    • At least this should put to rest some of the FUD from developers who rely on tools like Unity and other cross-platform frameworks that aren’t Flash based.

  • I love the part where it says “We don’ need any more fart apps.”

    This is totally iAnal™, but I think we’re going to see a lot more rejections from now on. Not only because of above statement, but especially because Apple will take a closer look at apps created with tools other than the SDK. Lack of performance, minimal functionality, badly written code, resource hogging will be met with even less tolerance from the reviewers.